Leading Ladies

Dr. Oluwakemi M. Linda Banks
Clinical Psychologist

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Oluwakemi M. Linda Banks, PhD has one of the most extensive CV’s you’ll ever read: radio announcer, TV personality, school principal, Clinical Psychologist—the list goes on. “All of these things just seemed to fall into place,” she laughs. She first dreamed of being a nurse, but when she lost her father at sixteen, plans changed. “My mother thought I was too young,” Linda says, “so I stayed here and I taught Secondary school at the age of sixteen. I taught students older than I was!” When she did leave to study, she chose psychology. “It was a mix of nursing and teaching,” she explains. In 1976, she moved to St. Maarten to help start the Methodist Agogic Center in St. Maarten with Rev. John Gumbs. “It was a pioneer school,” she recalls. “In St. Maarten, they taught Dutch as the language of instruction, but the children were failing because they spoke English at home. So, our school started that [teaching in English].” At the same time, she moonlit with a television show.

In 1994, Linda honoured her sister’s memory by helping found the Teacher Gloria Omololu Institute, now the Omololu International School, as Anguilla’s first private school. “Education should be fun,” she explains. “Parents and teachers should celebrate children, and I felt that they needed to feel free to express themselves in every way possible.” While doing so much, Linda has also turned down high-profile opportunities, including becoming the first Director of Tourism, broadcasting with the BBC, and working on TV with CBS in NYC. “I was more focused on doing things that had a caring element,” she says.

“when I teach children and they teach others, it’s a ripple effect. Whatever I pass on comes back to me, and then I can pass on even more.”

—Dr. Oluwakemi M. Linda Banks

In the past, she was Commissioner of Girlguiding Anguilla and Chairperson of the Caribbean Link for [Girl] Guiding. These days, she keeps adding to her acomplishments as a President of the Caribbean Congress of Churches and President Elect of Soroptimist International of Anguilla. She still teaches, lecturing at the local Saint James School of Medicine.

Who chose the name ’Oluwakemi’?
I did! It means “God is blessing me”. We had an African naming ceremony under a tree in front of my yard years ago. I’ve since learned that ’Linda’, in Swahili, means “God is protecting me”. I’ve travelled and met many Africans, and I’ve been totally embraced by them. They feel proud that somebody from the Caribbean identifies with them.

Is there anything you haven’t done yet?
I used to sing very well. For forty years, I didn’t sing, but last Christmas, I was the lead singer in an opera. I had done some voice training online, so I regained some of my middle range. So, now, I’m singing more. I’ve travelled the world over the years [on business], but now I want to travel more leisurely. I have always written poetry and songs, but I plan to write my life story. I also want to write and publish my book of poems.

Have you given any thought to legacy?
The school I started is a legacy. My vision statement is ’I am the possibility of universal transformation through spiritual leadership in a world manifesting the beauty and the glory of the creator.’ I feel that way because if I teach children and they go on to teach others, it’s like a ripple effect. Whatever I pass on is passed on again—it comes back to me, and then I can pass on even more.

What advice would you have for 20-year old Linda? Embrace life, open yourself up to all the possibilities, and enjoy it. Help others to be the best they can be.

Christina Scott
Governor of Anguilla

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Growing up the daughter of an Anglican Priest in a working class London neighbourhood gave H.E. Christina Scott a first-hand look at how people lived. That experience drew her to Public Service. “I had to get used to having someone on the doorstep in tears wanting help,” she explains. “I saw how public policy impacts lives and how better public policy can help disadvantaged people.”

The Oxford Grad has been in the British PS since graduating with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). Before taking up the post of Governor, she headed up the Civil Contingency Secretariat UK version of Disaster Management. 18 months in, Anguilla’s first female Governor is relishing the challenge and the realities of the role. “I’ve learned a lot and had the opportunity to bring some of my previous experiences and skills here.” She continues, “the big change for me has been moving from being a behind-the-scenes advisor to ministers to being a more public-facing figure. Now I have to manage my own public image.”

On being Anguilla’s first woman governor…
I am conscious that I’m shaping how a woman does this job [and] how any other woman who follows will be judged. If I fail, there are people out there that will think that women can’t handle these big roles. We all cast shadows. The bigger your profile, the bigger the shadow.

“I am conscious that I’m shaping how a woman does this job… If I fail, there are people out there that will think that women can’t handle these bi g roles.”

—H.E. Christina Scott

State of women’s issues?
I think that women are well represented in many sectors at the highest levels, and I see a pipeline of intelligent, articulate and ambitious young women coming through. Some issues haven’t yet been tackled properly, such as domestic violence, but these are challenges many countries face.

You’ve organized a few women’s events…
I am keen to do networking events for women. In a work context, men are more likely to chat with other men about sports or cars, and those build relationships. Females, on the other hand, are often the primary caregivers—for example, they spend more time dropping the kids at school and picking them up—so they might not have the same opportunities to share ideas and have the kinds of conversations that help build camaraderie and links.

Charities?
I’m fortunate to be a patron of the Anguilla Red Cross, as well as the Girl Guides. Both are quite close to my heart, as I was a Brownie and a Girl Guide. I’ve worked with and seen the importance of the Red Cross in the UK, and I’ve been extremely impressed by the determination of the small group of volunteers here. I’m privileged to support them, and I still donate each month to the British Red Cross.

Khalidah Banks
Physical Therapist

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“We used to play everything: cricket, football [soccer], volleyball,” recalls Khalidah Banks of her tomboyish childhood. But she was also a caregiver – “the one who took care of my little cousins. I babysat, changed diapers, and dressed the cuts and bruises.”

Against that background, Khalidah studied physical therapy at New York’s Ithaca College in 1995. She considered practicing sports medicine in the U.S. but came home instead. “Physical therapists are in high demand there, but I always knew I’d make a bigger difference here in Anguilla,” she says.

One of only two trained physios on the island, Khalidah splits her time between the hospital, home visits and the Welches Polyclinic, where she does most of her work. “We have a lot of financial and space constraints,” she says, “but I try to be innovative and come up with different things that patients can do on their own.”

She also never gave up playing sports – she is captain of the women’s national volleyball team and serves as the vice president of the Anguilla Amateur Volleyball Association. She’s also worked with the National Football, Netball and Volleyball teams as a traveling physio.

“success is being happy in whatever you’re doing and being able to keep a clear conscience.”

—Khalidah Banks

How was growing up with your father in Government?
We had the freedom to be who we were. My father [Victor Banks] never told us to be careful what we said or did. He never admonished us to not be who we are. I don’t ever recall having that conversation.

Your family is musically inclined. What about you?
We all grew up singing. I think almost every one of us joined a choir at some point. I sing in the Princess Alexandria Hospital Community Choir as well. We have an aunt who passed away who used to play guitar. Every year, my aunt Linda has a party on her birthday just before Christmas. We all get together and sing Christmas carols.

How do you define success?
I think being successful is being happy in whatever you’re doing and being able to keep a clear conscience. I think if you strive to do something, put in your best effort, and are comfortable with your best effort, you can be successful.

Rita Celestine-Carty
Educator

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I’m a book person,” Rita Celestine-Carty says with a laugh. “I keep on building more and more bookshelves in my house, but I’m running out of space.” Raised by her grandmother in Stony Ground while both her parents were overseas, the educator, poet and literary critic fell in love with words as a child and never outgrew it.

She hopes to pass that passion to her students at the high school, where she’s taught English Language, Literature and French for the past twenty years. “I try to teach not just the curriculum, but also to help them to see how they can empower themselves using language,” she explains. “Words, and language, are powerful. I teach them that they can live their lives, plus many others – in different times, in different places from books”

With a Master’s degree in French Languages and Literature (her father is also French), Rita briefly entertained the idea of working in an embassy – marrying a passion for language and a yearning to live in the French- African world. But aside from a brief stint in hospitality – when she still tutored in the evenings at her home – she’s never really strayed far from the classroom. “I wouldn’t say I’ve always wanted to teach, but I have always taught,” she smiles. “Even when I’m not in a school setting, I find myself explaining and sharing. I think it comes from caring how people understand and view things.”

“I see my work with students as ’creating neighbours’… when I teach, I’m helping to build my community.”

—Rita Celestine-Carty

Where do you get your inspiration?
My books, of course! Reading philosophy helps me a lot, because people haven’t changed much: all the technology around us has changed, but human nature is still the same. Socrates and Plato are still valid today. The Bible, too – Proverbs, Ecclesiastes. They provide a good framework… a full picture to deal with anything that comes at you.

What are you doing in 30 years?
(Laughs) No clue! Life’s uncertain. “Legacy” is an important word to me. I write a lot. It might not be published right now, but I think that it is something that I would like to leave behind. Maybe someone might choose to publish it then. My legacy is also my children – teaching them to take care of themselves and to take care of others as well. When I think of how my grandmother impacted me, I feel it’s important to touch people in a positive way. I see my work with students as “creating neighbours”, because they’ll be the people living among us. When I teach, I’m helping to build my community.

Define success.
Success is being able to sleep at night [laughs]. It’s having a fulfilling life, because it’s always in progress. You can earn a living, or you can make a life, and I think that I have managed to fuse the two.

Josephine Gumbs-Connor
Attorney-at-Law

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I often call myself ’the nomadic child,’” laughs Josephine Gumbs-Connor of her early years. Her father, Rev. John Gumbs’ Methodist ministry required that the family move every few years. This resulted in the “On the Spot” radio show host and legal veteran growing up, at various intervals, in Curacao, St. Maarten, Dominica, St. Kitts, and Anguilla. Her legal ambitions grew from observing him.

“His theology has always been about liberation,” she explains. “How do you elevate your people? How do you seek justice?”

In 1995, Josephine took her first job out of law school with Don Mitchell QC, who mentored her, taught her the skills to open her own firm four years later, and helped her root herself in awareness of her community. “He always encouraged me to be a part of something,” she recalls.

In response, Josephine took her love for public speaking to the airwaves and, eventually, took the reins of her current affairs programme in 2010. More recently, she’s worked on the Bar Association’s mentorship programme, which pairs high school students with community mentors.

“We have to ensure that the dignity of the person is honoured… [and] that young people feel invested enough to be a part of the community and give back.”

—Josephine Gumbs-Connor

Have you ever considered a political career?
I’ve thought about it. If and when the time’s right, I could conceive of it. It’s one of the highest honours to be selected by a community to represent them.

People who’ve inspired you?
In law, Dame Bernice Lake. She was tireless. I admired her preparation, delivery and articulation. She wasn’t shy, couldn’t be intimidated, and she always had fight in her. But she was also very gracious. You’d think she had gone to a finishing school. I liked that contradiction.

My mother was also a role model. She’s a nurse by profession. She had a way of feeling for the circumstances of people and making them feel comfortable. I try to be like her. As a lawyer, sometimes I move from my side of the desk and just sit with someone—oftentimes, people are just coming because they have pain in their hearts.

What are you doing in 20 years?
Something in service, where I’m speaking on behalf of people. We have to ensure that the dignity of the person is honoured. Beyond that, we must ensure that young people appreciate history and feel invested enough to be a part of the community and give back. I may be old and grey, then, but I will still have a mouth and a voice.

Rhona Richardson-Roydon
Farmer & Educator

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There are few things in life that Rhona Richardson is as passionate about as she is about education. But though her mother (Muriel “Teacher Noonie” Richardson) was a celebrated educator, Rhona never wanted to be a teacher. “I have no patience with rude children,” she laughs.

She left the island for Howard University in NY when she was 17. After she completed her degree in Political Science, Rhona and her then-husband, a medical doctor, moved to Mobile, Alabama to set up his practice, where they started a family. After their marriage ended, Rhona moved back to Anguilla and got involved with education, working as Special Assistant to the then Minister of Education, Eric Reid.

“I think that education is so doable here because of our size,” she says. “We only have one high school and six primary schools. My vision for Anguilla was to become the ideal model of standardizing education in the Eastern Caribbean.”

Since then, she’s been chairperson of the Anguilla Community Foundation and is currently Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the Anguilla Community College. “What’s so good about the Community College is that our courses offer certification,” she says, “so you can work anywhere in the region.”

“I’d want [my younger self] to have stronger faith… without that, you’re lost when things don’t go your way.”

—Rhona Richardson-Roydon

In the years since she returned, Rhona developed another passion—farming. She set up Rainbow Farms, which supplies produce to local restaurants and supermarkets. It all started after she helped rebuild the greenhouse at her late husband Leon Roydon’s Malliouhana Hotel after Hurricane Luis. She would later become Chef Michel Rostang’s supplier of fresh ingredients for the hotel’s restaurant. “I’d always liked the outdoors. I’m not an office person,” she laughs. “I don’t like sitting in front of a computer all day.”

You ran for Office twice. How was that?
The first time I ran, it was so close. Everyone was so excited, and the support was great. The second time was a mistake, because the support was not the same. There is a good crop of women running for office now. There is no doubting their intelligence. I don’t need to be in [politics] anymore. If I see people who are ready to do things for Anguilla, then I am happy.

Advice for 20-year old Rhona?
I have very few regrets. I would tell her to not get married as young as I did, at twenty-one—to finish her education, whatever that might be. I would ask her to be freer to pursue whatever she wanted. I would encourage her to listen to her parents more, because I was too rebellious. I’d want her to have stronger faith, because I think that without that foundation in your life, you’re lost when things don’t go your way.

Susan Best Richardson
Christian Minister & Gospel Singer

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If you ask Susan Best Richardson if she still sings, she’ll say, “Am I still breathing?” Born in Grenada but raised in Tortola, BVI, Susan has vivid memories of her first time singing in her father’s church at age seven: “I remember my mom helping me with the words, and that was it – I’ve been singing ever since.” As part of her father’s band, ’Regenerated Singers’, she did her first recording at 16 with her father and members of her family.

Susan began studies that the University of the Virgin Islands when the family moved to St. Thomas a few years later. There, she met her future husband, Curtis Richardson. Because of him, she and a group of young male Anguillian singers got together in the ’90s to form ’Unique Touch’, which recorded two albums to rave reviews before parting ways.

Shortly afterwards, Susan and Curtis moved to Anguilla. She taught at the high school while continuing as a solo artist, but the toll teaching took on her voice forced her to choose one of the two paths. “It was because of the constant talking,” she says. “Two years after I stopped teaching, my voice came back, and it was beautiful. [But] I loved teaching them – I think I’m a kid at heart. I don’t ever want to grow up.”

After a five-year hiatus, Susan self-produced ’I Trust You With My Life’ in 2010. Then, she found a career path that harmonized with her singing. Now an ordained Minister, she complements Susan Best Ministries with music, releasing her eighth album, ’A Voice’, in 2013.

“I couldn’t just sit down with this gift that God gave me. I don’t think that’s where He wants me,” she says.

“I want to leave a good name, because a good name is better than any amount of money.”

—Susan Best Richardson

What Inspires your ministry?
My life. I never sing a song because it has a nice tune. Every batch of work that I do comes out of a certain season of my life, and with those seasons comes growth. The approach I take is that it has to be authentic.

Any hidden talents?
I’ve always liked fashion. I was a diva before divas were created [laughs]. My mother was a seamstress, so I watched her sew. When I came here, I made my own outfits. I always liked creating stuff – taking something that looked like what I wanted and making it mine.

How do you want to be remembered?
I want people to know that Susan Best stood for integrity and righteousness – somebody you could look up to and say ’I want to be like her.’ I want to leave a good name, because a good name is better than any amount of money.

Melisha Maccow
Community Activist

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At 13, through sheer persistence, Melisha Maccow convinced Conrad Walton Fleming to give her a job at the front desk at Anguilla Great House. “I worked there every summer and holiday break afterwards,” she remembers, laughing. She went on to study hospitality management in The Netherlands, partially because most of her contemporaries chose the U.S. “If you tell me to go East, I’ll go West,” she says.

During her first year in school, her daughter was born. Melisha soul-searched. “I realized that life wasn’t about material things,” she says. “I wanted to focus more on community stuff.” She entered community work under tragic circumstances, after her boyfriend’s son was shot and left paralyzed. “We decided that we had to do something to help victims of gun violence,” she remembers.

The Faith Foundation was started in 2013 to provide to others the support and assistance they had lacked. The Foundation’s core members, most in their 20s and 30s, have all experienced gun violence, directly or indirectly. “You don’t have to be shot to be a victim,” Melisha stresses.

Initially, the group wanted to create a physical therapy facility, but a lack of funding drove them to provide other kinds of support. “We realized early on that we had to focus on awareness,” Melisha explains. “People simply weren’t aware of what families were going through. That led to the idea of having the Walk of Life and the Unity Rally.”

The fundraising rally, primarily a live music concert, has taken on a life of its own. “I want it to be something whose importance everyone understands,” she explains, “and the rally is the grand finale of working throughout the year to help young people to become productive. I’d also like to see young people leading the movement—people who might not have been directly affected but who understand why this is important.”

“To change someone’s life who might change another person’s life is important and meaningful.”

—Melisha Maccow

What’s next for the Foundation?
We want to have a foundation office, where we can have hotlines, for people to call and get counselling. Funding, though, is our biggest challenge.

What are your goals for community work?
I want to live a full life of service. I’ve realized that the positive impact you have on someone’s life is what’s important. To change someone’s life who might, in turn, change another person’s life, and to see that circle continuing, is important and meaningful.

Sherille Hughes
Hotelier

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Sherille Hughes didn’t intend to get into hospitality. After her mother was transferred to SKN in the mid 1960’s, Sherille returned to Anguilla and spent sixteen years working at Barclays Bank [now CIBC First Caribbean International Bank]. Eventually, moonlighting for her husband Frankie Hughes’ construction business turned into a full-time gig. “It had outgrown me coming home at night and writing up invoices by the dining room table,” she says.

Out of that business came Paradise Cove, the couple’s 29-suite boutique hotel. “It was a natural progression to move here,” she explains. “Customer service in the bank and customer service in the hotel aren’t that different.” She served as the President of the Anguilla Hotel and Tourism Association (AHTA) for 9 years, leaving the position in 2012. “It allowed me to be a part of the [tourism] policy decisions,” she says. “It doesn’t always work, but you have a voice.”

This year, Paradise Cove celebrates its twentieth anniversary— and a twenty-year streak with its dearest repeat guest. “He came by while we were still under construction and asked us to show him a room. He said, ’When I come back next year, I’m gonna stay here.’ And he’s stayed with us every year since.”

“I really love my job…When a guest says, ’You’re going to see us next year’, then I know I’ve done something good.”

—Sherille Hughes

Do you take notes when you travel?
Yes, I am guilty of that! I try not to be a difficult guest, because I know what it’s like on the back end. If I see certain practices that I can incorporate into our operations, I do it. No sense reinventing the wheel.

The next 20 years?
I’m hoping to retire soon but, before that, I’d like to see the final phase of Paradise Cove completed. As it is, we are two-thirds done. It’s tough doing 12-16 hour days, but I really love my job, and I love interacting with my guests and others in the hospitality industry. When a guest says at checkout, ’You’re going to see us next year’, then I know I’ve done something good.

Define success.
Success for me is having a loving and supportive husband, a great family, including a beautiful five year-old granddaughter, and contentment with my life. I am truly blessed.

Janine Edwards
Marketing & Hospitality Professional

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Born in Canada while her father was studying for his Master’s degree, Janine Edwards is the product of adventurers. On the hunt for adventure, her mother, a Brit, left the UK as a volunteer teacher and ended up in Montserrat. In Janine’s childhood, the family, including a younger brother, spent lots of time hiking, exploring their mountainous island, and traveling the world.

“It was very stimulating and enlightening,” she smiles. “When I look back now, it was a very privileged lifestyle in terms of opportunities.”

With degrees in Tourism Management but a scant tourism industry back home after the Soufrière Hills volcanic eruption, she decided that Anguilla was a good fit, no doubt helped, in part, by the fact that her fiancé had already moved to the island. They subsequently married and started a successful architecture and property development firm, Sunset Homes.

Janine has taken part in various community initiatives, including “Women with Heart”, a support group for cancer survivors, and, notably, her company’s annual back-to-school fun day for the children of the Caul’s Pond community.

“I think that you have to give back to the community,” she explains.

“My passions have always been centred on youth and education, so we’ve affiliated ourselves with ventures supporting those areas.”

“i encourage [my children] to seek excellence [and] add value… that way, they can nurture positive relationships.”

—Janine Edwards

Other community work?
We are currently working on Runway Anguilla, a fashion show fundraiser showcasing local designers. [Our team] is a great combination of women with different skillsets, but united in the passion to give. Last time, we raised over $15,000. It’s a labour of love, but the community always enjoys the show.

You come from a musical family…
Yes! My uncles were Calypsonians—’Arrow’ [now deceased] and ’Hero’ [famous for Tiny Winey]. My dad was also a Calypsonian. I did play the piano, but the teacher would rap my knuckles with a ruler, and that’s a memory I would like to block out [laughs]. My eldest son loves steel pan, saxophone, bass guitar and piano, so hopefully the genes passed to him.

Work-life balance?
Things overlap. I take my kids to events when it’s appropriate, and they think it’s fun, so I’m spending time with them as well. The hard part is finding time for me.

Do you expose your children to the opportunities you had?
Definitely! The difference is that it is very structured. There is a class for golf, a class for sailing. I believe in well roundedness and in experiencing the fullness of life. I encourage them to seek excellence… to add value. In that way, they can nurture positive relationships, and great things will happen in their lives.

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